A Cash Lowe Mystery
by Jeff Tydeman
PART I: Death and the Dying Dog
TODAY: Cash Lowe, Austin’s foremost homeless private eye, finds himself on the receiving end of a vicious attack!
The worst part about being dragged from a car is the public spectacle of it all. Especially when it’s a convertible zooming by a group of jeering street people hanging out in front of the ARCH. And double especially when the thing dragging you is a pit bull clamped down on your forearm.
But that’s exactly the situation I found myself in November of 2012.
Scene: hot sunny day in the city of Austin. A grateful nation has just reelected Barack Obama, who single-handedly turned our poor agrarian society into a multicultural juggernaut of universal love and prosperity. I wandered out the front door of the homeless shelter and started to cross Neches toward the parking lot.
Suddenly there was a flash of metal and the crunching of tires as a ragtop ’78 Cadillac Biarritz ripped around the corner and I felt a vise clamp down on my left forearm I had instinctively raised in a defensive gesture.
In a blur I could see two teenagers sitting on the front seat, laughing and screaming obscenities at me and one another. Fortunately I had recently lifted a pair of work boots from Goodwill so my feet weren’t torn apart as I scrambled for traction. My soiled windbreaker, however, was no match for Fido’s sharp teeth and I could see blood seeping through already while I tried to simultaneously pull my arm free and maintain my balance.
The driver was so busy watching my agony he struck a parking meter, giving me the chance to extricate myself from the startled pit. A squawk and in a flash of lights an Austin Police cruiser pulled up, blocking the car from moving again. For the first time in my life I was happy about the ongoing harassment of the ARCH property.
“Oh my God,” said the driver, some fair-haired skinny dork I recognized from The Drag. “He’s gonna kill me.”
His companion, another local heroin aficianado, long greasy hair and protruding teeth, stumbled dramatically out of the car and started bitching about something, figuring his best defense was a good offense. The pit jumped down and stood next to him, then sat in response to his command.
The cop calmly pulled his service revolver and put one in the dog’s skull. Blood splashed over me and the kid just stood there in shock, brains all over his ragged jeans and Steely Dan T-shirt. “What the fuck, are you insane? He wasn’t a threat!” He dropped to his knees and thought about hugging the dog, still twitching horrifically next to the curb, then decided not to. The homeless people who had been creeping up curiously all turned and sprinted in every opposite direction at the sound of the shot. “I’m suing you you motherfucker.
Shaaaane….” He wailed pathetically.
“I felt threatened,” said the officer quietly. A second and third cop car squealed up and next there was a wave of blue knocking both kids to the ground while I looked at my arm. Then some cop pushed me to the sidewalk and I moaned as my weight fell on the gash the dog had opened up; I literally felt faint. A strong arm reached down and pulled me out from under. It was the first cop on the scene, a tall tree of a man with a name tag that said Hartley.
“He’s the vic,” he said simply and the other cop nodded and joined the others in “controlling” the two screaming punks. The cop led me away. “You all right Cash? That was rude.”
“Ya think?” I felt like puking, not faking macho bravado. “I’m gonna need a ride Phil.”
“Ambulance is already bogeying this way.”
Of course it was. It’s the ARCH. We’re on an hourly rotation, like hit songs on 95.3.
“So what was that all about?”
“Damned if I know. I always got on well with them.”
The officer went and talked to the other police. The bike cops rolled up, and a wailing siren indicated my chariot was afoot. Paramedics scrambled out and sat me down while they unloaded enough equipment to do triage at Stalingrad. I lit my last cigarette tremblingly and ignored the disapproving looks of the med techs but they didn’t say anything. Blood was coating my arm and wrist; I looked pretty shitty.
“I don’t suppose you have any Tylenol 3 in your magic bag?” I asked the nearest paramedic, a guy who’d patched me up many times before.
“I’ll get you something when we hit The Brack,” he smiled. “Gotta keep Cash Lowe, investigator to the stars, healthy.”
Hartley returned. “The driver said it was Shakey Pete.”
“Shakey?” I shook my head. “We’re buddies. Plus he couldn’t organize a diarrhea party after a drunk trip to Jack In The Box. No, that’s not what happened.” I drew in a long puff. “But I’ll find out.”
He’s gonna kill me, the driver had said. Who had he meant? The policeman, or his employer?
Hartley turned to go.
“Hey Phil–thanks for executing the dog.”
“You owe me one Cash.”
NEXT MONTH: More surprises as Cash Lowe begins to unweave the weird convoluted story behind the attack upon him; available only in The Challenger, Austin’s premier street newspaper.
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